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AutoSpeed Book Reviews - Bodywork & Performance Car How Tos

By Julian Edgar and Michael Knowling

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If you're after easily digested, colourful material on body work repairs and painting, or something that will help you get more out of your car, these two books may be for you.

Your Guide to Bodywork

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Your Guide to Bodywork - a Comprehensive Guide to Repairs and Modification is a 159-page full colour, hardcover book. A compilation of articles previously published in magazines, it covers a grab-bag of painting and bodywork techniques, with most shown being carried out on older vehicles.

As with the other Clockwork Media books in this series, the use of previously published magazine articles to produce a book gives results that have some pluses and minuses. On the 'plus' side is the fact that each article is self-contained; you can read in a short time a coverage of repairing a rusty floor, or knocking out a small dent, or repairing a grille. The 'minus' side is that none of the content goes into more depth than can be achieved in a single article, and there's no developed theme through the book.

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So if you want a textbook that will teach you the basics of bodywork and painting, this is not for you. However, if you're more interested in something a bit less structured - a book with lots of DIY, and step-by-step coverage of the sort of bodywork that you're likely to be doing at home, it's excellent.

So what's in it? Panel beating and painting tips, a basic story on paint, paint-stripping techniques, repairing minor body dents, rust repair, another on small dents, and another on painting - and that's all just in the first 44 pages! Most articles are detailed in step-by-step pix - there's a lot more action than discussion. Every now and again a full feature car story intervenes; the cars have been picked for their wild paint and body mods, although they all fall into the classic street machine genus with nothing modern and nothing turbo.

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The quality of the work that's shown falls heavily into two camps:

  • relatively rough stuff done at home (eg tips to stop huge amounts of bog falling out!),
  • or professionals using gear way beyond what anyone without a paint 'n' panel shop would have available.

It's a pity that at least some accident repairs being carried out at top professional shops weren't shown - the use of a chassis straightening bench, hydraulic rams and some of the other techniques would have rounded out the coverage.

But the whole topic of paint and bodywork is one that's neglected, so if you're intending on sprucing up the old clunker, for only $35 ($31.50 to AutoSpeed members) for a host of tips and techniques, this book is well worth it.

For more details and ordering info: AutoSpeed Shop.

Performance Car How Tos

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Performance Car How Tos is a hardcover book aimed at educating the newcomer streeter - showing them how to perform basic mods to their car. Extending to 160 full colour pages, it comprises another compilation of magazine articles - each between two and six pages in length. The book is focussed primarily on pre-EFI era cars (generally V8s) and it covers many typical modifications to these cars with step-by-step photography.

There is an unusual mix of both general themes and specifics in the book - ranging from coverage of current chassis dynos, to a step-by-step story on fitting a centre-console handbrake to a LH-LX Torana. Basic engine building is covered, with topics such as installing timing gears, understanding camshaft jargon, fuel systems, and a valuable session on stopping detonation. There is also a story on what's involved in a typical engine swap - although this is bit of a letdown in this day-and-age, as it doesn't even make mention of wiring looms, sensors or ECUs. Restoration-type work that's covered includes rebuilding a steering box, a Borg Warner Single Rail gearbox and a Turbo 350 trans.

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Driveline issues are included, with a roundup of some of the common big hp manual boxes available, plus there's a story that outlines some special modifications to improve the strength of BW and Ford 9-inch differentials. And, like most in the book, these are quite well detailed stories.

Handling is covered with a run-down on suspension theory, the process of installing new strut inserts, a typical every-day upgrade for a "Coke-bottle" Falcon and a pair of swaybars for a Torana. The improvement gained in the latter was quantified by the customers' testimonial.

Vehicle safety isn't glossed over in any way either. There's a handy story on performing a safety check on your car, one on general braking system maintenance (and a bit on some simple upgrades) and a feature on car fires - including stats, prevention and actions.

There are only a few notably more up-to-date articles in the book. One of those shows how to fit a ram-type cold air intake to a VR V6 Commodore. Using a simple 3-inch flexible duct leading into the factory airbox, a chassis dyno-certified increase of 4kW at the wheels was attained. Another current-tech story shows the potential in some of the larger Japanese imported engines such as Lexus V8s and VG30DETTs - any of them can go into some of the traditional Aussie muscle machines for something truly radical.

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General detailing and how to make your car look like a caryard sparkler is a subject addressed by a few pages on how to buff your car, its wheels and clean the door jambs, etcetera. In addition, there's a story giving the method of detailing your alternator to either a painted or polished finish.

Very trick indeed.

The home DIYer is undoubtedly part of the market that this book is aimed at. Some of the backyard activities covered also include learning how to MIG weld, replace and upgrade door and ignition locks that have been vandalised and - for the lads! - how to install a NOS Brake Lock (line locker). Just the thing for choking the street with tyre smoke! However, one away-from-home story is about an Australian TAFE course where you can learn about machining - and use your own engine as the subject, with all equipment provided.

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Another interesting story shows how the trained experts can analyse failed components (such as pistons and bearings) and give detailed conclusions to the cause of damage. That's the sort of story you'd really love to read if you've just spent a wad of cash on an engine build that's just burst...

As mentioned earlier, this isn't a book on how to modify a modern day streeter - and nothing of small-ish engine capacity is even mentioned - but it does cover the well-known traditional V8 stuff quite effectively. It doesn't set out to make everyone an expert in any field, however it does give very useful background knowledge that will prove useful in both theory and practice.

On the negative side, there are at least a couple of references to past and future stories - they're not available and presumably they were in other editions of the magazines from which the articles were lifted. And it does look a bit advertorial in places too. But for only $35 ($31.50 to AutoSpeed members) who really cares?

For more details and ordering information: AutoSpeed Shop.

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